Australian Dictionary of Biography

  • Tip: searches only the name field
  • Tip: Use double quotes to search for a phrase

Collier, Albert (Leeter) (1909–1998)

by Dave Nadel

This article was published online in 2018

This is a shared entry with Harry Collier

Harry Collier (1907–1994), Australian Rules footballer, was born on 1 October 1907 at Collingwood, Melbourne, the sixth of ten children of Albert Augustus Collier, signwriter, and his wife Hannah Josephine, née Binks, both Victorian born. Harry’s early years were spent at 13 Turner Street opposite Victoria Park, the home ground of the Collingwood Football Club. He was educated at the nearby Victoria Park State School. Harry and his brother Albert ‘Leeter’ Collier (1909–1998) developed an interest in the local football team. They watched the team train and sold Football Record match guides before games. They were also schoolboy athletes, representing the State in football. In 1924 the brothers played for the Melbourne district club Ivanhoe. That year Harry won its best and fairest award and was invited to try out for Collingwood. An injured knee delayed his debut until 1926; Leeter had appeared in his first games in 1925.

The Collier brothers joined Collingwood when it was on the brink of success. Under the coaching of James ‘Jock’ McHale the team functioned as a machine in which every member had a clearly defined role, willing to sacrifice individual glory for the success of the club. Harry was small and of medium build, measuring five feet eight inches (173 cm) and weighing ten stone seven pounds (66.5 kg). As a rover he had good ball skills, could kick well with either foot, had superb anticipation, and, though not fast, was elusive, with blind turning and twisting. He won the club’s award for the most consistent player in 1927, 1928, and 1930, and the E. W. Copeland best and fairest trophy in 1928 and 1930. Collingwood won a record four successive premierships from 1927 to 1930.

In 1929 Leeter won the Brownlow medal for the best and fairest player in the Victorian Football League. The following year Harry tied with Footscray’s Allan Hopkins and Richmond’s Stan Judkins. After a countback, the Brownlow was awarded to Judkins, as he had won his votes over fewer games. It later emerged that Harry should have won outright, as one umpire had written ‘Collier’ on his voting slip without specifying which brother. The vote was declared invalid but the umpire later claimed that he was referring to ‘the little one’ (Collins 2003, 52). Harry was almost three inches (7 cm) shorter than Leeter. In 1980 the VFL abandoned the countback system and began presenting medals to joint winners. Harry was finally awarded his medal—together with Hopkins and four other players who had lost countbacks—at a ceremony in 1989. He and Leeter thus became the only brothers to each win a Brownlow.

During his sporting career Harry had worked as a cellarman for Carlton & United Breweries Ltd. On 20 October 1934 at St Andrew’s Anglican Church, Clifton Hill, he married Verna Florence May Hyde, a tobacco worker. From 1935 to 1939 he captained the Collingwood side, with Leeter as his deputy. In each of those years the ‘Magpies’ contested the grand final, winning two premierships (1935 and 1936). In 1938 Harry was charged with striking a Carlton footballer in round five. He admitted his guilt, expecting that his unblemished record would result in a light sentence, but was suspended for the remainder of the year. Before the 1940 season the club committee forced the brothers into a reluctant retirement. Harry was allowed to appear in one game that year to complete fifteen years service. He had played 255 games and kicked 299 goals.

Collier subsequently captain-coached the Essendon reserve team to a premiership in 1941. During World War II he served in Victoria with the Citizen Military Forces (December 1942-August 1943) before rejoining Essendon from 1944 to 1946. From the late 1940s he was a popular football commentator, first on radio and later on television. Returning to Collingwood, he served on the committee (1964–75), as chairman of the selection committee (1964–70), and as a recruiter and talent scout. In 1988 the trophy for the club’s best first-year player was renamed in his honour. Predeceased by his wife and survived by his two daughters, he died on 16 August 1994 at Prahran and was cremated. At his funeral—held on the oval at Victoria Park—he was described as ‘hard but fair’ and was said to have loved ‘a bet, a song, and a good drink too’ (Collins 2003, 56).

Research edited by Nicole McLennan

Select Bibliography

  • Browne, Ashley. ‘Harry Collier, 1908 [sic]–1994.’ Age (Melbourne), 19 August 1994, 16
  • Collins, Ben. ‘1930: Harry Collier, Collingwood.’ In The Brownlow: A Tribute to the Greats of Australian Football, edited by Geoff Slattery, 52–56. Port Melbourne, Vic.: Lothian, 2003
  • Frost, Lionel. Immortals: Football People and the Evolution of Australian Rules. Milton, Qld: John Wiley & Sons, 2005
  • Holmesby, Russell, and Jim Main. Encyclopedia of AFL Footballers: Every AFL/VFL Player since 1897. 10th ed. Seaford, Vic.: Bas Publishing, 2014
  • Roberts, Michael. A Century of the Best: The Stories of Collingwood’s Favourite Sons. Abbotsford, Vic.: Collingwood Football Club, 1991
  • Stremski, Richard. Kill for Collingwood. Sydney: Allen & Unwin, 1986

Additional Resources

Citation details

Dave Nadel, 'Collier, Albert (Leeter) (1909–1998)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/collier-albert-leeter-27661/text35032, published online 2018, accessed online 23 September 2019.

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2019